Question 7. Vicksburg now has no written affirmative action plan for hiring and no written plan for minority set-asides in contracts for city business. Should Vicksburg have such plans? Why or why not?

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2005

Ford: No, I favor hiring people, not race or color. The lowest bidder will get the contract based on meeting all other criteria set forth in the guidelines. Affirmative action plans were a necessary evil during the beginning of desegregation days. However, I would like to believe we have graduated to a different degree of respect for individual skills and intelligence and can work together in unity for a better and more productive community.

Leyens: Set-asides are illegal. A “set aside” is a term that describes the practice of guaranteeing a certain percentage of work being offered to a special group, suggesting that this group is incapable of competing on its own merits. This creates unfair business practices, and is not in the best interest of the taxpayers. It is, however, legal and appropriate to establish “target goals” to ensure that city contracts are awarded to local contractors on a basis that reflects the demographics of our community. It’s only fair and logical.

However, fostering an open, competitive marketplace is essential. Accountability is critical here. Elected officials must fairly represent the entire community. If minorities are not getting their fair share of city contracts, then we need to work with them to help them qualify by skill versus quota. This is a better long-term solution.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

We, as a community, need to concern ourselves and ensure that we support our small businesses in a real and meaningful way, because they truly represent the backbone of our local economy. Having sound business practices at city hall will insure solid predictable outcomes that we can measure for our future.

Loviza: I favor competition with bonded proof for a job well done. This means equal opportunity for all.

Walker: Although the City of Vicksburg does not have an affirmative action plan or a minority set-aside plan, many of the contracts that are awarded by the city that use state or federal funding do require the minority set-asides, such as the Halls Ferry Road project. The city does have an Equal Employment Opportunity Plan which identifies the area of underutilization of females, both black and white, in various categories. The city strives to actively recruit qualified black and white females by working closely with the Mississippi Employment Security Commission, Hinds Community College and other groups. When completing projects with federal or state money that requires set-asides, the city hires a consultant to monitor the set-aside program or the State of Mississippi, through its program, monitors the program. To do this with all city contracts would be very expensive and time consuming.

Question 8: In February 1998, a 2-1 vote by city officials directed the closure of Vicksburg Municipal Airport effective March 31 of that year. If, after taking office, the new city board is called on to vote again on closing Vicksburg Municipal, how will you vote? Why?

Ford: First, I am not sure I would have voted to close the airport. I would have been more in favor of expanding it, even if it meant relocating it to another site. Now that it is closed, I would not consider investing in another airport when the city is already committed to paying for the one in Tallulah. I would need to study this scenario more in depth as it related to the city’s financial obligations and how it would affect the taxpayers.

Leyens: Today, the ability of the city to make a decision is in the hands of the Mississippi Supreme Court. I would need to carefully and thoughtfully understand the impact of this decision for the best interest of the city going forward. This property is owned by the City of Vicksburg and its future use should be carefully evaluated based on the needs and interest of the community.

Loviza: This is an issue that will most likely be settled by the courts. I will continue to support both airports until such time as Vicksburg industry ceases to utilize the Vicksburg Airport. The Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport has a bright future. The mayor has a responsibility to meet as many need of existing industry within city boundaries as city resources are available. She or he must also recruit new industry and promote our assets to make us attractive to those who may want to located here. Thus, new jobs, increased payroll, shopping in local stores, and use of the entire community evolves. Taxes paid into local coffers makes these industries vital to improving Vicksburg and our quality of life. Good air service, which is safe and accessible, is a must for the economic development of our community.

Walker: I was one of the two elected officials who voted to close the Vicksburg Municipal Airport in February 1998 so that the City of Vicksburg could be one of the four partners supporting a modern airport that would meet our current and future needs. I will vote the same way, if the matter comes up again. I would do so because the Vicksburg Tallulah Airport is modern, safe, it is eligible for FAA funding, it is more cost-effective paying one-fourth of the local share, and it would open the current municipal airport property to businesses and jobs.